It is a special week for high school football and we have one of our own in the state finals with a chance at earning the pretty blue trophy symbolic of a state championship in Idaho.
Firth was battling West Side for the 2A title late Thursday night, well after press time. But we’ll still break the game down.
Firth has earned the right to play for the title and it will be the second year in a row they have done so. Following a great season in which the Cougars have gone 9-2 on the year, their only losses coming at the hands of West Side and North Fremont in the first game of the regular season and the last game of the regular season, and arguably both of those games were games that the Cougars could have won and maybe even should have won.
In the opener against West Side, at West Side, the Cougars held a 14-12 lead with 10 seconds remaining in the game when the Pirates’ stud running back, Cage Brokens took the handoff on the 35 yard line and went straight into the end zone, and with the two-point conversion, the Pirates led 20-14.
Firth was able to run the kickoff back for a score to tie the game, but missed the extra point and the game went into overtime where the Pirates prevailed 26-20.
In the season finale, the Cougars were at North Fremont with a two-touchdown lead and the Huskies came from behind and with a two-point conversion were able to beat the Cougars 22-21, earning the Nuclear Conference title along the way.
The Cougars have avenged the loss to the Huskies this past week in the playoffs with a 12-8 win and earning the spot opposite the Pirates in Thursday night’s final for the 2A classification. The game took place at 9 p.m. on Thursday in Holt Arena.
Who will win and why are the biggest questions on a lot of people’s mind as the teams make their final preparations for the big game.
First, let’s look at West Side. The Pirates have three All-State first teamers from a year ago in their corner and all three are instrumental to the success the Pirates have both offensively and defensively.
Quarterback Blaize Brown is a dual threat passing and throwing and plays defensive back as well. Brokens is a big, strong runner that can carry would-be tacklers with him and he doubles up as a linebacker as well and wide reciever Bryler Shurtliff must be accounted for on every single play that he’s on the field for. He also doubles up as a defensive back and can turn a game around quickly with an interception that he has the ability to score on as well as make a tackle in open field. These three will surely repeat in all-state selections when those are made later this fall.
For Firth, it all starts on offense with quarterback Gage Vasquez, who is a dual threat running and passing and he will be one of the quickest and fastest players on the field on both sides of the ball. An all-conference first team selection at quarterback and free safety, don’t mistake his size as him not being able to play. This kid can make it happen from anywhere on the field and is a threat to score from anywhere offensively or defensively.
Running back Sam Park was the offensive player of the year in the Nuclear Conference and deservedly so. He ran for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns this year and is a threat receiving the ball as well and he doubles up as a linebacker where he was also a first team performer.
Wide receiver/running back/defensive back Burton Park is the third of the three most dangerous players on Firth’s team and he is fast as can be. He can run, catch, and defend and leads the team in interceptions and is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball.
Now like any good team, those top three for the Cougars and the Pirates are not the only reasons they are in the position to claim a state title this week.
For Firth, they also have the defensive player of the year in Athan Blonquist who for the second time in his career has led the classification in sacks. While his numbers are not as high as they were a year ago, he has also been double and triple teamed this year and the wealth has been shared by the Cougars where no fewer than seven players have recorded sacks this fall.
No fewer than 19 Cougars were named first team all-conference this fall and while that includes a number of players who were named on both offense and defense, it simply shows you that they are not a one trick pony, so to speak. They are so strong that all three first team selections at wide receiver were from Firth. Quarterback Vasquez completes 70 percent of his passes and has a tremendous touchdown to interception rate of 17-3 on the season. Those are pretty special numbers for any quarterback in the state. Vasquez has passed for 1,400 yards this year and added another 400 plus yards as a runner.
Linebackers Riley Barber and the aforementioned Blonquist anchor the defense, but they have plenty of help along the line and at linebacker so they are a formidable crew.
West Side, well, they have been doing this for some time now and are on a 30-plus game winning streak which includes two consecutive state titles.
There is nothing that their big three of Brown, Brokens and Shurtliff would like to do than add their names to a third blue trophy and graduate with three straight titles.
There will be a lot of people who expect that this game could turn into a scoring contest and it well may become just that, but the defenses that both teams have would make me think otherwise.
West Side leads all of 2A in defense, only giving up 8.4 points per game and Firth is right behind at 11.36 points per game so the defenses will have a lot to say about the outcome of this game.
Seven times this season, Firth has given up eight or fewer points in a game, winning all of them.
West Side matches that same number of games with eight or fewer points in a game, so the defenses will likely be at the forefront of the action.
This game will be won or lost in the trenches and it will be a matter of which team that can set the tone early that will have the edge when the game is played.
Both teams have the ability to beat the other, both teams have scored huge amounts of points and both teams have proven that they were built from the defense up.
It would be easy to pick West Side as they try and continue a long winning streak, but those streaks are meant to come to an end at some time and the gut feeling is that it could end in this one.
Firth needs a near-perfect game Thursday and must stay away from costly penalties which plagued them in both games against North Fremont. If they clean that up, they can win.
The final call is going to go Firth’s way.
Firth 21, West Side 20 in a game that will leave the fans hoarse for a couple of days and tired from all the screaming and hollering during the game.